Pakistan's Parliament House goes solar

The Pakistani government has made a symbolic move in support of solar energy – and its strong ties to China — by installing a 1 MW PV array atop the country’s Parliament House.

The project was fully funded by the Chinese government and unveiled by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday.

Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurate the solar PV plant at the Parliament House in Islamabad on April 21. Source: Government of Pakistan

The system, which employs multicrystalline Yingli Solar panels, is expected to generate some 1.6 million kilowatt-hours of solar electricity annually. The government expects to have the PV array completed by June. The installation will reduce the building’s electricity costs by an estimated PKR 28 million ($275,631) annually.

China Railway 17th Bureau Group is overseeing engineering, procurement and construction of the project and Yingli will supply its YGE 60 Cell Series panels for the project.

Yingli Chairman and CEO Liansheng Miao said it was "an honor to contribute to these two countries’ efforts to strengthen their relationship, and this project is sure to help Yingli solidify its reputation and intensify its development in the market."

With abundant solar radiation resources and a severe electricity shortage, there is huge potential for solar energy in Pakistan, where the energy mix is currently dominated by oil and gas. Pakistan’s government introduced a feed-in-tariff scheme last year that applies to solar power plants of between 1 MW and 100 MW capacity with varying rates in the north and south of the country. The government also approved a net energy metering system, which allows solar panel purchasers to sell the power they produce to the national grid, late last year.

Pakistan’s new Parliament House solar system is set to surpass the 450 kW PV installation atop Israel’s Knesset, which the country claimed was the largest PV system on any parliament building in the world when it was unveiled last month. Unlike Pakistan’s Chinese-funded array, the much pricier $610,000 Knesset solar system was paid for by Israeli taxpayers and used JA Solar JA PV modules.

News of the new Parliament House installation comes amidst reports that the Pakistani government is putting the brakes on further solar and wind development. According to Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune, the government appears to be shifting its focus towards liquefied natural gas (LNG)-based power plants and initially halted new solar and wind energy projects due to their high costs cmpared to conventional electricity production projects.